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Jim and Ione Lebeda: A Lifetime of Memories and Miracles

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11/01/2011 - By Gayle Irwin

Jim and Ione Lebeda recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary, sharing a lifetime of love, memories and miracles, including friendship, courtship, children, health issues, faith and prayer.

The couple strongly believes in the power of prayer, and prayer has been a large part of their lives. Their youngest daughter experienced a devastating illness throughout her teenage years; the family spent seven years with doctors and hospitals. Two heart attacks and many heartaches later, a doctor in Billings diagnosed her with a type of colitis, something that could have been cured if diagnosed sooner. During those seven years, Ione took her daughter to several prayer meetings, and believes it was prayer, perseverance and faith that finally led them to Billings. Now, the Ledbetter's daughter is 54 years old and a pastor's wife.

In 2000, Jim was traveling on the VA van to Sheridan when the vehicle rolled. Two people were killed, and Jim was airlifted to Billings with life-threatening injuries, including a punctured lung and a hole in his heart. He was in ICU for nearly two weeks.

"My faithful wife…stayed and prayed over me," Jim said.

"The doctor told me, 'you need a miracle,'" Ione recalled. "So, we prayed and we had people praying for him.

"I got my miracle," she added with a smile.

The couple attends Faith Assembly. Faith has been an important part of their lives.

"The day I accepted the Lord changed my life," Ione said.

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Jim's faith reaches back to his days in the Army.

Those are the days he met Ione as well. Ione grew up in Douglas and Jim worked at the POW camp that had been created there. He was a cook, and she worked at the Creamery. Ione dated Jim's friend, but they often double-dated with Jim and his (then) girl friend. Jim's friend shipped out and his girlfriend left him for another, so that left Jim and Ione; the two friends began dating.

"He just grew on me," Ione recalled.

She was 17 years old, and the evening before Jim was scheduled to ship out, he proposed to her. She told him "yes", but hesitantly. "He was going overseas and didn't know when he'd get out, so I told him, 'I'll say yes for now, but let's wait and see,'" Ione said.

Jim got out of service in March 1946. Ione had gone to business school in Denver and was working in the city. "We were two strangers," she said. "Things were shaky."

Jim returned to his home in South Dakota but ended up with a job in Rawlins. Ione, too, went to Rawlins for her job and the two reconnected. "I told him it was time to stop fooling around and get married. Jim took it in stride," she recalled.

"I was trying to make a living," Jim said. The young couple spent some time in Washington state and then ended up back in Wyoming. Jim received work in Shoshoni during the construction of Boysen Dam.

The couple came to Casper in 1951. His work as a carpenter and builder gave Jim many experiences, including the opportunity to construct a church in Paradise Valley. He also helped build Dean Morgan school, the Yellowstone Street overpass, banks, and many houses in the community. He started his own construction business during the late 1960s and continued through the mid-1980s.

Jim turns 90 years old on September 26th, and the couple recalls their numerous blessings, including three children, eight grandchildren (although one is deceased), and eight great grandchildren, with two more on the way.

"We've had a lot of miracles in our life," Ione stated.

"God has been good," Jim echoed.

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